Dear parents and carers,
Following the decision made at our Staffing and Finance committee last week about Friday afternoon childcare, I have had some feedback and some questions. I thought it would be useful to share some information with you all.
The reason for children going home at lunchtime on a Friday
COVID has brought a huge number of challenges for schools, as well as to families. The Health and Safety constraints, the challenge of delivering our standard curriculum, COVID catch up, ‘bubbles’ across school and also the legal requirement of staff to have their weekly Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time. As such a big school, managing all of the challenges, as well as needing to also manage constant staff absence due to isolations, we made the decision for all staff to have their PPA on a Friday afternoon with children going home at lunchtime. This was possible as there is increased teaching time elsewhere in the school week, as a result of our response to COVID restrictions.
Changes to the school start and finish times
COVID restrictions mean that our school day now starts earlier than it did previously and for some year groups, also ends later. This is to stop all year groups entering and leaving school grounds at the same time and reduces families gathering in the school yards.
Lunchtimes are slightly shorter than previously, 45 minutes instead of an hour. However lunchtimes were not reduced due to Friday afternoons, they were reduced as it was the only way we could manage the complex issue of all ‘bubbles’ being kept separate at lunchtime. Previously all children had the same lunchtime, eating and playing out in shared spaces. That cannot happen as COVID restrictions mean that year groups cannot mix. We therefore now have ‘two sittings’ at lunchtime. Our school is so big that these changes needed to be made in order to keep year groups apart, both inside and outside over lunchtimes. This change has also meant our children have more space to play as the yards are less crowded and for some children, lunchtimes were too long.
Governors did discuss consulting with parents about the change to the timetabled teaching week this school year and made a decision not to. The Health and Safety constraints on schools, the challenge of delivering our standard curriculum, COVID catch up and also delivering staff PPA are all challenges outside of the control of both the school and also of every parent, caused by the global pandemic. So knowing the views of our parents would unfortunately not have removed these challenges. I do not make decisions lightly and some decisions are very difficult. If there are any changes to the timetabled school day which are not related to COVID, then we would ask parents and carers for their views.
Childcare on a Friday afternoon
Knowing how difficult it was for families when the decision was made to reorganise the timetabled teaching week, I suggested to Governors that we offer childcare on a Friday afternoon for those who would really need it. We didn’t charge for this childcare when it started, as we knew that during the most challenging restrictions, not all families would be able to manage if we did not support them. Last week in our Staffing and Finance committee we discussed the fact that those tight restrictions outside of school are ending. As a result, we felt it was reasonable to begin to charge for this childcare outside of our timetabled teaching hours, as so many options are going to be available for families for childcare, which were not available earlier this school year.
Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to ask questions or to share how you are feeling with me directly. I have listened to this constructive feedback from you. Please remember that we are always here to listen.
I took your concerns to our Full Governing Body meeting, which was last night.
We are going to be continuing with our current timetabled teaching week for the rest of this academic year, as this is enabling us to respond to the many challenges schools are still facing with COVID restrictions and managing PPA. Whilst schools are open to all children, significant restrictions still remain in schools. Therefore Governors and I are in agreement in continuing with the current timetabled teaching week.
After much discussion last night, Governors and I are in agreement that we will not go ahead with the decision to charge for childcare on a Friday afternoon.
There are a great many challenges running a school at the best of times, but especially during COVID. I will always listen to anyone who takes the time to make contact. Something may not always change as a result, for many reasons, but at least it may be possible to explain in more detail.